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Beshear, Paducah officials and business partners break ground on City Block project

Leaders in western Kentucky break ground on a new project in Paducah.
Derek Operle
/
WKMS
Leaders in western Kentucky break ground on a new project in Paducah.

Paducah officials, Gov. Andy Beshear and business partners broke ground Friday on the City Block project, a long-gestating effort aimed at “reenergizing” the far western Kentucky city’s downtown.

What’s currently a parking lot in the heart of the McCracken County seat’s downtown is set to become a prime tourism destination, with the City Block project including plans for new retail and living spaces as well as an 81-room boutique hotel space complete with restaurant, public promenades, green space and a rooftop bar overlooking the Ohio River.

The $21 million City Block project is the result of nearly a decade of collaboration between the City of Paducah and Louisville’s Weyland Ventures.

The ground where the development will take place has been the home to many businesses over the years, including a tobacco warehouse, a bourbon distillery, a shoe factory, a cobbler, a cigar factory, a laundromat, a grocery store and liquor store.

Beshear said the site’s history and riverfront location make it “a link between Paducah’s past and its future.”

“It's proof that the region's vibrant economy is not only back, but it's growing and it is a boost to the city's growing and vibrant downtown,” Beshear said. “In the heart of Paducah, the City Block will create new downtown destinations to encourage companies to choose this community. Once it's complete, visitors and Kentuckians alike will see what this city block is, which is the place to be.”

The governor also said he believes this project and others like it could have “a positive impact for generations to come.”

WKMS
/
Derek Operle

“Like every parent, I have a dream that I think that we all share. It's that no matter how big of a dream our kids dream, they can pursue it right here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and in the region that they're from. And we are closer than ever to stopping that,” Beshear said. “Our goal is to be the generation that changed everything for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. And, let me tell you, we're doing just that. While we have been through a lot – a pandemic, tornados, flooding, ice storms, inflation, even a war in Europe that none of us thought we would ever see in our lifetime – I believe we're turning the page.”

Paducah Mayor George Bray thinks the project will also work to beautify Paducah’s already award-winning Main Street area, particularly the block bounded by Second Street, Broadway, Water Street, and Jefferson.

“The new hotel will fit in very nicely with that architecture and make downtown Paducah even more of a destination for travelers and local residents who enjoy the amenities of our city,” Bray said. “Paducah is moving forward and will continue to welcome solid investors to our city to play a role in the development of our city.”

Bray sees the project as one of the big puzzle pieces falling into place to invigorate Paducah’s downtown area.

“The City Block project along with the upcoming riverfront redevelopment with the BUILD grant will transform our downtown, energize the historic heart of the city, and lead to additional growth for the entire community,” Bray said later in a release. “I want the community to rest assured that the City of Paducah is working hard to balance the need to maximize this community’s growth with maintaining the quality of life we have all come to expect. Maximizing our growth through public and private investment, the TIF district, and infrastructure enhancements is critical to our long-term strategy.”

Weyland Ventures CEO Mariah Gratz said the development represents the biggest single investment in the city’s downtown since the Carson Center. She, too, sees the project as a momentum shift for the city’s downtown, one she hopes will bring even more developments as the city continues to plan for growth.

“Downtown Paducah has such a vitality and a wonderful mix of new and historic buildings. Our goal is to expand the energy and excitement of downtown Paducah into the city block and out to the riverfront,” she said. “Connecting downtown with the existing Riverfront Park and the future investments that are being made through the build grant will enhance the desirability of downtown Paducah for local businesses and visitors alike.”

The long-planned project has been steered by multiple mayoral administrations and city commissions – beginning with Mayor Brandi Harless. Paducah City Commissioner Sandra Wilson acknowledged Harless’ key role in the project and thanked the other officials involved over the years before the ceremony.

“This has been the work of two mayors and four commissions. So thank you, Mayor Harless for your work that you did on this project and your leadership and vision and the two commissions that served with you,” Wilson said. “And thank you, Mayor Bray and the two commissions that continued this work with what will be, I believe, a transformational project for our town.”

There has been some concern about the project depleting the downtown area of parking spaces. To that end, 150 spaces will be included in the City Block project area.

Paducah’s Ray Black & Son is contracted for the project’s construction. Work will begin on the first phase next week.

Copyright 2023 WKMS. To see more, visit WKMS.

Derek Operle

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